Sound Change: What happens when ㅂ and ㅍ are followed by ㄴ or ㅁ

Sound Change: What happens when ㅂ and ㅍ are followed by ㄴ or ㅁ


 

As a learner of Korean, you might have noticed that some verb endings – 입니다 [imnida], 합니다 [hamnida], 습니다 [seumnida] – are more common than others. These endings are formal, polite, honorific forms that you’ll see in news, public forums, business contexts, or official documents. In this post, we’re going to learn the pronunciation rule for them.

The pronunciation change comes from nasalization. Nasalization is a phonological change in which a sound assimilates to a neighboring nasal sound. Today, we take the case of ㅂ [b/p] or ㅍ [p] used as a final consonant. ㅂ [b/p] and ㅍ [p] are stop consonants, formed by stopping the flow of air through the mouth. When they come before ㄴ [n] or ㅁ [m], which are nasal consonants produced with the nose, then ㅂ [b/p], ㅍ [p] are pronounced like ㅁ [m].

Does this rule seem arbitrary? If so, try saying the 13 phrases below at least three times, fast, keeping the true pronunciation of ㅂ [b/p]. You’ll see how your mouth just wants to turn it into ㅁ [m]. With practice, you’ll get the hang of the rule and realize the greater ease of pronunciation.

 

1. ㅂ + ㄴ → ㅁ + ㄴ

WordsPronunciationMeaning
입니다[임니다] [imnida]to be (polite)
합니다[함니다] [hamnida]to do (polite)
갑니다[감니다] [gamnida]to go (polite)
잡니다[잠니다] [jamnida]to sleep (polite)
고맙습니다[고맙슴니다] [gomapseumnida]Thank you
감사합니다[감사함니다] [gamsahamnida]Thank you

 

2. ㅂ + ㅁ → ㅁ + ㅁ

WordsPronunciationMeaning
십만[심만] [simman]100,000
집만[짐만] [jimman]home only
밥맛[밤맛] [bammat]appetite

 

3. ㅍ + ㄴ → ㅁ + ㄴ

WordsPronunciationMeaning
앞니[암니] [amni]front teeth

 

4. ㅍ + ㅁ → ㅁ + ㅁ

WordsPronunciationMeaning
앞문[암문] [ammun]front door
옆문[염문] [yeommun]side door
앞만[암만] [amman]the front only

 

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Reference:

  1. Jaehoon Yeon, Lucien Brown. Korean: A Comprehensive Grammar (Routledge Comprehensive Grammars). 1st ed. Routledge; 2011.
  2. Danielle Ooyoung Pyun. Colloquial Korean: The Complete Course For Beginners. Routledge; 2009.
  3. Henry J. Amen, Kyubyong Park. Korean For Beginners: Mastering Conversational Korean. Tuttle Publishing; 2010.